Today Hank started preschool. I truly thought it would be no big deal. I remember Madeleine starting preschool. She was fine, I was fine; it was no big deal. I should have realized she was my oldest. I seem to expect her to grow up. Hank leaving this morning was harder. Much harder.
6:12 a.m. I’m asleep. Joe nudges me. “Why don’t you get up and take a shower first,” he suggests. I grunt and roll back over.
"You get up and go first,” I fire back. I fall back to sleep.
6:36 a.m. I wake up and look at the clock. I realize I’m already a few minutes behind schedule and kick myself for not getting up just after six.
6:50 a.m. We’re all crammed in the bathroom, Madeleine, Hank and me in our pajamas, Joe in his suit, all ready for work. I tell the kids for the third time to get dressed.
Hank is dawdling. He knows it’s his first day of preschool and he’s acting like he’s going to stay in his pajamas all day.
Madeleine is acting snotty. Very snotty. “It’s your first day of school!” I say to Hank, in a big, excited voice. Madeleine gives me a withering look and says to Hank, “Preschool Hank, not real school.”
7:00 a.m. I tell the kids to get dressed. Again. I think I’ve said it forty times now. I’m starting to get very annoyed.
7:30 a.m. We’re downstairs. Hank is still acting out of sorts, but at least he has his clothes on. Madeleine is still acting snotty. She says school is boring and that it’s not exciting at all that Hank is starting school. Hank has had enough. He shoves her. Not hard, but hard enough that Madeleine runs up to her room crying. I feel like yelling, “Serenity now!” at the top of my lungs like George Castanza in Seinfeld.
7:35 a.m. We’re just sitting down for breakfast. Madeleine is getting picked up shortly. She’s jabbering and eating slowly. I tell her to focus. Hank is nervous, but that doesn’t stop him from eating an entire bowl and asking (and eating) another half a bowl.
7:45 a.m. The kids are outside. Madeleine walks down to our neighbor’s house to pick up her friend O____. Hank throws on his backpack and runs over O____’s house, where his friend A____ lives also and yells, “A____, it’s my first day of school today!!!” He is ignored, as the smaller kids in our neighborhood always are. Hank tries to tell O___ and her brother M____. They’re busy talking to Madeleine. When Madeleine deigns to acknowledge her brother it’s to explain to O___ and M___ that it’s just preschool that Hank is starting.
7:57 a.m. Hank, Elisabeth and I are back in the house. Madeleine is supposed to be down the block, walking to school with the gang of neighbor kids escorted today by B___’s mom. Lucky woman. Madeleine bursts through the door. She exclaims that her Daily Folder wasn’t in her backpack and she needs it. She does need it, but it’s already in there. She runs down the block. She’s now made the entire block have to rush or be late for school. I try and put it out of my mind. For today, it’s B___’s mom’s responsibility, not mine.
8:15 a.m. Hank is crying. He wants to play with A___ (the only other kid close to his age who isn’t in school). He doesn’t want to go to school. He’s obviously scared and nervous.
I decide that I need to bribe him to get pictures. I want the pictures so I offer candy. I feel no guilt. Two seconds later photogenic Hank is back and I snap some cute pictures. He is much more cooperative than Madeleine two days prior.
8:30 a.m. We’re en route. Hank is yelling that he hates school and doesn’t want to go. I try explaining how fun school will be in my most chipper, brave voice. He becomes more incensed.
I decide to throw a curve ball. I start singing the song from He-Man. Hank is flustered. He’s busy throwing a tantrum and doesn’t know how to respond. Thankfully he takes the bait and we spend the rest of the trip talking about He-Man and She-Ra. Not my favorite topic, but it beats the crying and yelling.
8:40 a.m. We’re parked. Hank doesn’t want to get out. He’s moving veeerrryyy sllllooooowwwlllly. I can see the door fifteen yards ahead of us.
8:41 a.m. We’re walking.
8:42 a.m. Still walking.
8:43 a.m. Walking. I’m trying not to feel antsy that a thirty-second walk has already taken three minutes.
8:44 a.m. Stalled. Hank wants to play on the playset.
8:45 a.m. In the building. Finally. Hank is clinging to me but smiling. His picture is taped up next to his hook and he’s curious about his picture on top of a table by the entrance to his classroom. He finds his laminated picture atop the table and anxiously searches the numerous pockets hanging on the classroom door for the one bearing his name. He finds it and carefully slips his picture in the pocket with his name written in bold, black letters.
When entering the classroom I observe two or three other kids glued to their parents’ sides scattered about the room. I see one of his teachers sitting on the floor next to a shelf of toys. Hank spies some Brio trains on the shelves. He tells Miss M that he has those trains at home. She takes them out and Hank “shows” her how to build a train track.
He’s smiling and more interested in the trains than he is in Elisabeth or me. I am expecting tears and clinging but all I get is a warm hug, kiss and a smile before Hank turns back around to play trains.
8:55 a.m. I lean back in the driver’s seat in the parking lot and shed a few tears. It was harder leaving Hank than I thought it would be.